12/20/2018 5 Tips for a Fun and Stress-Free Holiday with your Pet

Allison Walsh, Social Media Strategist

5 Tips for a Fun and Stress-Free Holiday with your Pet

Are you one of the 68% of Americans who owns a pet?1  Yes, they can add a little work to your daily routine, but they give back plenty in return.  Studies show that pets can improve people’s emotional, mental and even physical health.2  

Pet  ownership has been associated with:

  • Lowering the risk of developing allergies
  • Decreasing the risk of obesity
  • Decreasing loneliness/improving socialization opportunities
  • Decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Pets’ health and well-being are intricately connected to our own,  and as our stress levels may rise over the holidays, so too can our pets’.  Here are a few tips to help ensure everyone stays happy, healthy and joyful this holiday season.

Tip #1 - Create pet "safety zones"

If you are hosting a celebration you may want to place your pet in a crate or a quiet room as people start to arrive, or for the entire time, depending on your pet’s disposition. This ensures they don’t escape out an open door, and it protects them from becoming overwhelmed and anxious with the hustle and bustle of guests coming and going. 

Some pets take their duty of guarding the home very seriously, and they may become overly on guard and agitated as strangers arrive. 

Keeping pets contained helps lower stress levels for both you and your pets, allowing you to relax and enjoy your time with your guests. 

If you haven’t already, join a “lost pets” group for your area on Facebook, so in the event your pet does escape, you can post a picture and an alert right away.

Tip #2 - Don’t force pets to mingle with guests

Once everyone has arrived and the mood has calmed a bit, it may be OK for pets to come out of their safety zone to mix and mingle, but be aware that bite incidents rise exponentially during the holiday season3 due to guests:

  • Forcing themselves on the pet too quickly
  • Talking too loudly or excitedly
  • Introducing new toys that get pets too wound up
  • Allowing their children to walk around with food and eating at the pet’s face level
  • Allowing children to roughhouse around or with pets

As an owner, trust your instincts, and if you feel your pet may become agitated, keep them on a leash or in their crate, and don’t allow your guests to force themselves on your pet.  Some signs that your dog is feeling anxious and needs some space are:

  • Excessive panting
  • Looking away
  • Flicking their tongue
  • Guarding their space4

If toddlers and young children are present, make sure one adult is always assigned to watching that they don’t violate the pets’ space. The last thing anyone needs to ruin the festive mood is the stress of a biting incident and a trip to the ER.

Tip #3 - Watch what your pet eats

You definitely don’t want to run to Urgent Care with your pet this holiday season (or ever)  either, so be sure to watch what your pet eats. It’s human nature to want to share delicious holiday treats with your four-legged friends, but many human foods can make them sick including, but not limited to:

  • Fatty foods
  • Nutmeg
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes, raisins, and fruits with seeds or pits
  • Rhubarb
  • Yeast dough (can expand in their stomachs)
  • Xylitol (found in some chewing gum)
  • Raw eggs, meat, or fish
  • Salt (watch out for playdough!)

For a healthy treat, take the lead from the ingredients list on your pet’s everyday food. Whatever proteins, vegetables and fruits are listed would certainly be acceptable as treats on their own in small quantities. 

Tip #4 - Avoid separation anxiety

Leaving your pets behind can be stressful for both you and your pet. Minimize separation anxiety by fully vetting your pet’s caregiver, whether they are an at-home sitter or a kennel. Word of mouth and online reviews are usually the best resources for finding quality care for pets while you are away. 

Another option is to bring your pet with you. Traveling with pets has become more mainstream over the past few years, and it can add a lot of enjoyment to your trip if you don’t have to leave your dog behind (cats are almost always happier at home). A quick online search will reveal hundreds of pet-friendly hotels around the country. 

Be extra careful at rest stops, as anxious dogs may take the opportunity to jump out of the car unexpectedly and run.

Tip #5 - Leave a gift under the tree for your pet!

Have you seen all the online videos of dogs unwrapping their presents?  Bring extra joy, fun and laughter by including your pet in this year’s gift exchange. And don’t forget to capture the moment on video!

Happy Holidays to all of our readers, and their pets!

References:
1 Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp
2 Animals play an important role in many people's lives and often help with therapy, rehab, etc. Learn more about the possible benefits of pet companionship. (2017, March 31). Retrieved from center4research.org/benefits-pets-human-health/
3 Why Dog Bites Happen More Often During Holidays [Infographic]. (2018, December 04). Retrieved from k9aggression.com/why-dogbites-happen-during-the-holidays/?v=f24485ae434a
4 Breitner, J. (2018, November 29). How to Prevent Dog Bites During the Stressful Holiday Season. Retrieved from dogster.com/lifestyle/how-to-prevent-dog-bites-during-the-stressful-holiday-season

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